An article on Boston.com, The Triumph of Victor Valley Alums: Or why you shouldn’t sweat it if you don’t get accepted to an Ivy League school, goes into a detailed discussion on why high school seniors shouldn’t worry if they didn’t get into the absolute top tier of schools. Tom Keane, tells high school seniors that even though everyone has been telling them college will make or break them, an Ivy League education is no guarantee of future success and neither is a degree from a “less prestigious” institution a fore-bearer of mediocre career and life. Tom proves his point by listing a number of successful people who attended public schools, such as GE’s former CEO Jack Welch, and current Boston mayor, Thomas “Mumbles” Menino. After which Mr. Keane delivers this juicy quote:
“The list of successful men and women who made it despite never attending top-ranked colleges appears endless.
Meanwhile, President Bush attended Yale.”
All jokes aside, I’m a firm believer that it’s not where [or how] you learned a topic, but rather that you learned it and hopefully learned it well. Although our culture puts a lot of pressure on young adults to get into the top schools in the country, it seems more and more kids are figuring out that there is little difference between an Ivy League and State School education, as long as you apply yourself and learn as much as you can. I would argue that there is a difference between the best and worst college in America, but the well-known schools all have the potential to graduate smart, well-rounded people who can contribute to our society.
A new debate is emerging between the merits of an online (or distance-learning) degree and a traditional on-campus degree. Many universities around the country now have online versions of many of their degree programs, such as UmassOnline from the University of Massachusetts, University College from the University of Maryland, and the World Campus from Penn State. Many employers recognize that the education one receives from these online programs is every bit as good as a traditional campus experience, however there are still several companies that look down on such degrees, even though they originate from a fully accredited school and use the same faculty as the on-campus courses.
A growing trend, and one which will bring further validation to online degree programs, is to combine these online programs with the traditional on-campus experience. The University of Massachusetts has already taken the first steps and is offering hybrid courses for several of their degree programs, (“UMass online program offering real face time”). The next step is to tape, via video or audio depending on the course, lectures and post them online, either internally to students and faculty, or externally to the entire online community. The podcasts of UC Berkley lectures posted to the Berkley iTunes store is a good start, but needs to be integrated with more of Berkley’s classes and other universities to really make a difference. Princeton University hosts a random assortment of video lectures on their WebMedia site which is cool, but not substantial. There’s also the OpenCourseWare site hosted by MIT, with a video & audio section, which is a noble idea but needs to be expanded much more.
I recently discovered the open culture directory of podcasts, and even there the educational podcasts section of actual lectures is sparse, with the previously noted UC Berkley listing being the best so far in terms of depth and mirroring actual courses. Once more schools begin recording and posting their professor’s lectures online, there will be very little difference between an online and on-campus education. Still, if you put in the effort you can receive just as much value and experience from an online degree program as a traditional on-campus program.